I’m not a big believer in tearing up contracts. You sign it, you own it. You want a new one with more money? Wait until you play out your old one or sign an extension. But I’m going to make an exception here. David Ortiz is signed for this year — and that’s all – for $15 million. He’s apparently wondering what’s up with the Red Sox. He’s got a point.
The Sox should tear up his deal and give him another year or two to boot. This is a very unique situation. Ortiz is simply the greatest designated hitter in history, apologies to Edgar Martinez fans, and has helped produced three World Series titles in 10 years when there were none in the 85 years before he joined the club in 2003.
But he set fans of the Olde Towne Team on their ear last week with a television interview in Boston where he said “it might be time to move on” if he didn’t get a multi-year offer from the Sox. Ortiz in another uniform? It seems unfathomable. Sure, it’s easy to forget he played 455 games with the Twins from 1997-2002 but does anybody really remember any of those?
“As long as they keep offering me a job and I keep doing what I’m supposed to do and the relationship keeps on building up, I’m going to be there,” Ortiz told CBS affiliate WBZ. “Hopefully, I won’t have to go and wear another uniform. If I have to, I’ve got no choice. I’m not going to quit. As long as I keep hitting the ball the way I have, I’ve got to keep on giving it a try.”
Now, it’s easy to see things from the Red Sox point of view. Ortiz is 38 years old and 2012 — when he basically missed the entire second half with Achilles trouble — isn’t that long ago. Those kinds of things happen to ballplayers pushing 40. They gave him a two-year deal after that season too, which was a pretty good show of faith. And they know he has limited options, since he can’t go to a National League city with no DH.
But Ortiz batted .309 with 30 homers and 103 RBIs last year and then went 11 for 16 in the World Series. There’s no argument he’s the face of the franchise and, to some degree, an entire city. His “this is our bleeping city” speech after the Marathon bombings was a seminal societal moment. Forget baseball.
His grand slam in Game Two against the Tigers turned around the ALCS, and the same thing happened in the World Series with his dugout soliloquy during Game Four in St. Louis. He’s going to get a statue outside Fenway Park someday.
The sides met briefly in December with no real offer made. But Red Sox GM Ben Cherington is on record as saying he wants Ortiz to finish his career in a Boston uniform. My suggestion to him would be to make sure that happens. This is no time to be playing hardball with an icon who’s not in decline, the way someone like Derek Jeter seems to be.
This is Big Papi. Pay the man.
On the air drama
My email tells me there’s plenty of Red Sox fans who follow the NESN broadcasts, whether it’s on the MLB.TV or Extra Innings packages, and there’s been plenty of on-air news from them in recent days.
Analyst Jerry Remy had an emotional meeting with reporters last week at the network’s studios, revealing that he will be coming back for his 27th season in the television booth. Remy has been off the air and basically in seclusion since August after his son Jared was arrested and charged with the murder of Jennifer Martel, a 27-year-old woman who was the mother of Jared Remy’s 5-year-old daughter.
“If you’d asked me in November or December, the answer would have been no,” Remy said. “I felt it was over. I couldn’t find a reason to come back. … People told me that in time things would get better. … Things have not gotten better. It became worse and worse.”
Still, Remy said he felt he couldn’t quit on a career that has made him one of the most popular figures in Boston even as he’s battled depression and cancer. When you go to Fenway, the man everybody calls “RemDawg” is just about as popular as Big Papi.
“I hope in no way that my decision to come back to do games has a negative impact on the Martel family,” said Remy. “I think they will understand that.”
Meanwhile, popular sideline/clubhouse reporter Jenny Dell has been reassigned within the network a few weeks after Dell and Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks went public with a long-rumored romantic relationship.
What an embarrassing no-no for Dell in 2014, when so many advances have been made over the year for women in the field of sports media. She was roundly roasted on Twitter, and by several female journalists in a story on SI.com written by Sports Illustrated media critic and University at Buffalo graduate Richard Deitsch.
Spring starts Thursday
Believe it or not, Diamondbacks pitchers and catchers report to spring training on Thursday and the Dodgers’ batteries report on Saturday. The two teams are getting a head start because of their trip to Australia to open the season.
They will play two games in the Sidney Cricket Grounds but they will actually be on the same date in the United States (March 22). One game will be at 4 a.m. Eastern time, with the other at 10 p.m.
Aside from those two teams, the earliest pitchers/catchers report date in Arizona is Feb. 11 (Indians in Goodyear) while in Florida it’s Feb. 12 (Cardinals in Jupiter). Team equipment trucks have been taking off and heading south the last couple of days. Awesome.
Scully to Australia
The Dodgers announced Thursday that legendary broadcaster Vin Scully will make the 17-hour flight to Australia to call the two games.
Scully doesn’t travel much these days, other than to places like San Diego, San Francisco and Denver. But the Dodgers are debuting a new regional sports network in spring training and wanted their marquee man behind the microphone to open the regular season schedule. Can’t blame them.
“They asked me to go because they’re the first games to be broadcast by Time Warner,” Scully told the Los Angeles Times. “So I said, ‘Sure, I’ll go.’ ”
Jays need an arm
Masahiro Tanaka is with the Yankees and Matt Garza has signed with the Brewers, but Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jiminez and Bronson Arroyo are still available and A.J. Burnett is making noise that he’s not retiring and looking to pitch somewhere other than Pittsburgh. The Blue Jays have to get in on one of these arms, right?
“We got knocked down a bit, like a fighter,” team president Paul Beeston said of last season at Wednesday’s annual State of the Franchise meeting with season ticket-holders in Rogers Centre. “Now we have to get back up off the mat. This team was not built for one year. We are still committed to win.”
Around the horn
• Two retirements from two ultra-classy vets in recent days as Michael Young and Lance Berkman have called it a career. Berkman is best remembered as a six-time All-Star who helped the Astros to their only World Series (2005) and batted .423 in the Fall Classic for the 2011 Cardinals.
But folks in these parts might remember what Berkman did as a 22-year-old in 1998 as well. A late-season callup from Double-A, Berkman became the MVP of the Triple-A World Series as New Orleans beat the Bisons in Las Vegas. Berkman had a Reggie Jackson-style, three-homer night in the clinching Game Four and batted .467 in the series.
• Huge news for the Orioles as third baseman Manny Machado is expected to be cleared for baseball activities this week, less than four months after major knee surgery. He was expected to be out at least six months and maybe more but is on track for the March 31 season opener against the Red Sox.
• Friday marked three pretty significant birthdays: Ernie Banks turned 83, Nolan Ryan turned 67 and Jackie Robinson would have turned 95. Jan. 31 is quite a day for Hall of Fame birthdays.